Business buying habits are shifting, and while B2B eCommerce may be about speed and convenience when professionals want to purchase office supplies, the procurement process isn't necessarily about a quick buy. Even as a younger generation attains more buying power in the enterprise, B2B procurement remains a complex process involving many hands, and buyers appear willing to take the time to make the right purchase and connect with vendors.
A recent report from Digital Commerce 360 pointed to one reason why corporate buyers are willing to slow down the procurement process. While many organizations might have a single manager or director to lead their purchasing, researchers found in a survey of more than 100 professionals that they still consult and collaborate with other managers and department heads when making online purchases. Nearly three quarters of survey respondents said there are at least two to three managers involved in the buying process, Digital Commerce 360 found, and more than one-tenth said four or five other staff members include their input before a purchasing decision is made.
Another example of how corporates are willing to take their time in the procurement process is in the range of resources accessed when researching products and vendors. Sixty percent of companies surveyed said they look at two to three websites before making a first-time online purchase, and nearly one-third said they'll look at as many as seven websites when researching products. Only 2 percent report that they will make a purchase on the same day that they complete their product research, internal discussion and approval processes. In fact, more than one-third said they will take between a week and a month to actually hit the "buy button."
"B2B is typically not an impulse buy, but rather a considered purchase," explained Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group, the eCommerce research firm that released the report. "Buyers do their homework in order to be confident they are making the right decision."
She added that, despite the assumption that the digitization of the procurement process supports a faster buying journey, it may actually support organizations' desire to take their time. With half of corporate buyers now making at least some of their purchases online, according to the survey, the shift away from paper magazines and phone calls isn't necessarily linked to faster purchases. Instead, digital portals make it easier for buyers to do their research, come back to web pages and digital checkout when they please, and complete their due diligence when it is the right time to do so.
"There's no substitute for doing one's homework, and digital facilitates taking a deeper dive to ensure companies make wise decisions," Freedman said.
Millennials have certainly ushered in a new era of corporate buying, demanding online portals to research vendors and products, as well as make their purchases and payments. However, just as the market cannot assume that the digitization of procurement and B2B eCommerce will mean faster buying, the industry cannot assume that younger corporate buyers will lead to an accelerated buying process, either.
In another report released recently by Spiceworks, researchers examined the ways millennial corporate buyers deviate from their older peers. Sixty percent of millennials surveyed said they prefer to procure from technology vendors that support the cultivation of business relationships, researchers found, rather than vendors that can support a quick transaction.
As more than one-third of millennials said they need to have a personal experience with a vendor before they make a purchase for their enterprise (more so than Gen X or baby boomer buyers), millennials are certainly willing to take their time researching suppliers and products. While millennial corporate buyers are less likely to pick up the phone or respond to mass marketing emails from potential B2B buyers, the research suggests that their preference for digital B2B eCommerce channels isn't motivated by speed, but by the demand to conduct research and initiate purchases on their own terms.